South Charlotte

This big-hearted Knight fights for the underdog

Ardrey Kell basketball player Sophie Dockstader has never averaged 13 points-per-game like her teammate Christelle Shembo. She's never made six 3-pointers in a game like Oceania Anderson.

If she receives a college scholarship, it will be for reasons other than basketball.

"We have four players that are scholarship bound," said Ardrey Kell coach Tina Lawrence. "Sophie is probably not going to pursue basketball at the collegiate level."

But that's OK with Dockstader.

The 17-year-old rising senior plays because she loves basketball. She's been playing since fourth grade and has been on the Knights varsity team since her sophomore year.

"I love the game," said Dockstader. "It's like a rush to run down the court and just participate." Lawrence said Dockstader will be a "college selection dream" when she begins applying, because of academics and passion for community service.

"Sophie's one of those all-around kids," said Lawrence

"She's got the highest GPA on our team. She does a lot of community service."

Dockstader said she doesn't mind taking a role in the background, if that means bringing attention to others.

"I am kind of an advocate for everyone that needs help," said Dockstader. "I've always been that way. According to my mom, I've always fought for the underdog."

Dockstader said her biggest passion is Operation Smile, a nonprofit organization that provides surgeries for children born with cleft lips and cleft palettes.

Three years ago, she formed an Operation Smile Club with the help of former Ardrey Kell athletic trainer Margaret Lynch.

When Lynch left Ardrey Kell to attend medical school, Dockstader took over the club. She'll be president for the second year this fall.

"These kids can't go to school if they don't have the surgery," said Dockstader. "They don't have any friends. They are completely isolated from society. A 45-minute surgery can change their life completely, and it's within my power to help them. It's just become close to my heart."

The club raises money to send toys to children in need. In November, Dockstader hopes to deliver the toys to the children in person.

Dockstader will be going on a medical mission trip to China with Operation Smile. The plan has been in the works since January, when she first applied to go.

The application process involved writing two essays and filming a short video about herself.

"It's a pretty extensive process," said Dockstader. "I wrote two or three essays, one kind about myself and what I've done for the club and one about why I would want to go on the trip."

Dockstader has always had a passion for helping others, said her mother, Sue Dockstader. The family lived in Hong Kong for seven years, and it opened Sophie's eyes to others, she said.

"She had seen kids that lived in much less fortunate circumstances," said Sue Dockstader. "She could really understand how awful it would be if you lived in those countries and had that kind of deformity.

"She has a younger brother, so she's basically been helping somebody ever since she was born. She has a very big heart."

Dockstader won't be taking her basketball duties lightly in the midst of preparing for her trip to China.

"Next year we have a couple young players that are really good," said Dockstader. "I plan on helping them adjust to high school and fit into the team.

"Everyone kind of calls me 'mom.' I make sure everyone does what they are supposed to be doing."